Last night the Thunder and Cavaliers tipped off for their second head-to-head meeting this season at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Thunder were without mainstays Shai-Gilgeous Alexander (foot), Lugentz Dort (concussion), Darius Bazley (shoulder), Isiah Roby (concussion), as well as bench contributor Josh Hall (concussion). The Cavaliers were without Larry Nance Jr but were otherwise healthy.
The first quarter was an offensive fireworks show. Both teams combined for an eye-opening 76 points in the opening frame. This offensive boom was due in large part to prolific three-point shooting by each side. Rookies Theo Maledon and Alskej Pokusevski both drilled triples with the former opening the game up on an 8 point personal run. After the first quarter, the game was deadlocked at 38 apiece.
The second quarter featured more of the basketball one might expect from teams with two of the worst records in the league. The Thunder’s de-facto floor general Theo Maledon was forced to the bench with two personal fouls. Without Maledon’s steady hand the Thunder began to cough the ball up for easy Cavalier transition buckets. The Cavaliers would lead at halftime by a score of 65 to 61.
Unfortunately, the thunder’s offensive stall continued into the third and fourth quarters as well. The home team mustered just a paltry 14 points on sub 30% shooting in the third period and not much better in the fourth. The Cavalier’s dynamic backcourt of Collin Sexton and Darius Garand, not to mention once Thunder killer Kevin Love, began to take over the game. Sexton and Garland showed why they are considered one of the best up-and-coming duos in the league and Love showed flashes of the sharpshooting he used to provide during his time with the Timberwolves and in his early tenure with the Cavs. After the dust settled the Cavaliers beat the Thunder by a final score of 129-102.
The result was welcome to Thunder fans embracing the tank and disappointing to those that could care less about the ultimate arrangement of ping pong balls. Regardless of which side of the camp you’re on in regards to “tanking” the development and promise of Pokusevski and Maledon is something every fan can take heart in. Maledon scored 14 points and is beginning to gain the confidence that all great guards seem to ooze. He is starting to attack the basket with savvy and shoot his jumper with belief. Pokusevski, for all his faults, is light years ahead of where most experts and fans alike thought he would be at this point. Displaying the ball-handling and high-level skill set that coerced an organization as tight-lipped and to the vest as the OKC Thunder to let it be known pre-draft that the 7 foot Serbian was their man.
The Thunder will play again Saturday Against the Philadelphia 76ers at 8:00pm.